Chatham Area Transit discusses streetcars

Chatham Area Transit discusses streetcars

Chatham Area Transit is looking at the possibility of putting in infrastructure for streetcars in the city of Savannah.

CAT's Chief Development Officer Ramond Robinson says having the infrastructure for this type of transportation would provide other mobility benefits for the area including improved "walkability" and storefronts.

Robinson says street cars would also help facilitate the use of other forms of public transportation, and there would be an overall positive return on the investment.

"We have more people that are coming to actually dwell in the downtown areas. We want them to have mobility options. How do we reduced the vehicle miles traveled? How do we make sure our environmental footprint is sustainable? How do we stay along the course to doing those things and a street car just kind of helps that," said Robinson.

The idea would include three lines: one up MLK Street, one to the Canal District and then one along River Street to the River Landing area. The estimated cost of the projects is about $56 million.

However, CAT said the investment would return more than $500 million back into the local economy. Essentially, for every $1 spent on the project, $9 would generate back into the economy.

An economic impact, the Savannah Area Chamber of Commerce recognizes, especially on tourism.

"There are so many other part of our community that a street car would provide access to that they might not necessarily see otherwise," said William Hubbard, CEO of the Chamber. "It's a good opportunity to spread out the tourist thorugh our community and have an economic impact for an increasing number of people here."

CAT says the funding would come from a mix of local and federal funds. There is also discussion about creating a TAD, or tax allocation district, in the areas of infrastructure.

CAT says the goal would be to have a few of the lines open in 5-10 years.

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